2004 Sun Story Highlights Cawley Improvements

Throwback Thursday – I post this for informational purposes not to defend any point of view but to share public information

Here is a story in the Lowell Sun by Dave Peaver from June 2004 that Highlights grants and improvements made at the Cawley Complex. I’ve shortened it a bit for space but you can read the entire story here.

Regal in the foreground is the concrete edifice of Cawley Stadium, a Works Progress Administration project that first opened in 1941 and was brought back from decay in 1997 by a $1.7 million restoration project. The stadium in which the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse wore out the grass the past three summers still echoes with the roar of 8,000 strong from Lowell High’s football glory days under coach Ray Riddick.

To your right as you stand facing Cawley from the football practice field are shiny new silver bleachers towering over James S. Martin Field in preparation for the New England Riptide, the local entry in the National Pro Fastpitch League, in which 96 of the best women’s softball players in the country play.”When you looked at it from a distance when they first started putting the bleachers up, it looked like the field was surrounded by a roller-coaster,” says Lowell High softball coach Rick O’Brien with a chuckle.

Reaping the benefits of the city’s eager forays into professional sports are the kids of Lowell High School. The seven fields of the Martin-Alumni Athletic Complex nearly every inch covered by lights and irrigation are first and foremost Lowell High’s to play on (per conditions set down by the donators of the property and by handshake understandings with the city).”The kids actually didn’t get much benefit from the Cannons playing here, because the Cannons wrecked the field,” says Lowell High athletic director Charlie Ryan. “The field as it is (inside Cawley Stadium) is a safety concern. We need to have it pristine because it’s the flagship of our facilities.”But overall,” adds Ryan, “our facilities are second to none; not only for Massachusetts, but for all of the Northeast. The (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) uses our facilities for tournaments in just about every sport in the fall and spring.”Other than a reduction in the seating and a gradual erosion of the infield that causes an occasional bad hop off the lip, Stoklosa-Alumni Field looks essentially the same as when it was spruced up so that the likes of Shea Hillenbrand and David Eckstein could safely field grounders there.

What is now Cawley Stadium was called Merrill Field when it opened on Oct. 24, 1941 with Lowell losing a football game 6-0 to Peabody. Herbert A. Merrill had sold a portion of the land for the stadium to the Lowell High Alumni Association.Merrill had nothing to do with Lowell High sports, a fact that so outraged the late Sun sportswriter George McGuane and others that the field soon became known as Lowell Memorial Stadium.On Oct. 30, 1966, the stadium was renamed Edward D. Cawley Stadium in honor of one of Lowell High’s all-time greatest athletes, whose family also donated to the LHS Alumni Association a portion of the land upon which the Martin facility sits. Maia, current president of the LHS Alumni Association, says donated land has been deeded to the city under certain conditions; among them being that Lowell High has first dibs on the fields.

“You look at Lawrence and Haverhill, and their stadiums are a disgrace. They’re falling apart,” says Ryan. “Through the foresight of (former City Manager) Brian Martin (after whose family the complex is named), he stepped to the plate and got the grant to reconstruct Cawley Stadium. The results are stunning to look at.””It is not just one of the best high-school facilities in the state, it is the best,” says Charlie Bolianites, Lowell High’s equipment/ticket manager. “Any events we have here, all we get are compliments.”The softball field behind Cawley Stadium (on a parcel of land which is partially in Tewksbury) is the latest to receive an infusion of federal grant money.While the Cannons have left Cawley Stadium, the New England Riptide women’s professional softball team has been drawn to the well-lit fields off Clark Road.In order to accommodate the Riptide,

James S. Martin Field, which was already considered a state-of-the-art site for high school state tournaments, is being transformed into a Taj Mahal of high-school softball, extravagantly adding new bleachers for 2,500, new dugouts and a new press box.”We’re thrilled about it,” says O’Brien. “The only problem is that we had a game (recently) and I don’t know how many people were there, but with all those bleachers it looked like there were only two.”

(c) 2004 The Sun (Lowell, MA). All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.

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